As a long-time Star Wars fan, I loved The Last Jedi, but I loved it as I would a well-written fanfic. There's one big problem at the heart of it:
That's not the Luke Skywalker I grew up with.
The Luke Skywalker I grew up idolizing was a hero, whose empathy and strength at the end of Return of the Jedi signalled the start of a long career where he went on to do many awesome things afterwards.
In other words, for me, the Holy Trilogy was an origin story.
Yet what Rian Johnson has decided, canonically, is that Luke was a fluke - he had one great moment, rather like that high school football player who won the big game, and then spent the rest of his life as a loser. It's significant when Rey is talking about the achievements of the Jedi, she mentions him redeeming Vader and then doesn't mention that Luke a damn thing after that.
Because he didn't. For Rian Johnson, the Holy Trilogy is not an origin story, but the sole thing Luke managed to do with his life. (Which, by the way, is confirmed in the canonical Star Wars books leading up to the film. He's not a significant player in any of the post-Rebel fights; he barely exists except as a figure of inspiration.) And Luke's been slowly rotting in a cave ever since - out of his depth, confused, having learned literally nothing from his adventures.
(Whereas Yoda, for some reason - who radicalized Luke as a murderer and was trying to train Luke to kill his father - gets a pass on his mistakes, still retaining his unwarranted halo as "wise teacher" despite the fact that all of Return of the Jedi only happens because Luke's instincts were better than Yoda's.)
Honestly, I have to admire Rian's ballsiness. Rian Johnson pushed all-in on the "Luke's a loser" card because it made things way more interesting for Rey and Kylo in this movie - which is a bold damn choice. And it also makes Luke's arc (in this movie) more riveting, because the question becomes "Can this man manage to pull off a twofer in his life, or is he forever going to be known by his one achievement?"
But right now fandom is in fury because, well, they've had forty years to imagine what their version of Luke's been up to. A lot of people had no problem with The Last Jedi because their impression was that Luke was a whiny loser, of course he'd just fuck everything up, and so their version of Luke is pretty much "Yeah, he'd have deteriorated." But for people like me, who grew up inspired by Luke's surpassing his whiny teenaged years to become the black-clad badass he was in Return of the Jedi, living an adult life trying to escape that black hole pull of the dorkiness of their high school experience, well...
The idea that Luke was basically a one-hit wonder, the Lou Bega of Jedi Knights, is a hard pill to swallow. And even Mark Hamill didn't agree with that - what he said was, "I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you've decided about my character." (But because he's a pro, he decided to play that character as written - and I think The Last Jedi draws much of its strength by Hamill leaning into that blade, taking his own reticence about that and manifesting it on-screen.)
And if you're wondering why The Last Jedi has ignited a furor among fans, that's because it's the first Star Wars film to actually make a new decision about the Star Wars universe since The Phantom Menace.
That's right: Star Wars has not had any major alterations to its fabric since George Lucas introduced the idea of midichlorians.
Oh, the prequels did some new things, but we knew the ultimate outcome: Anakin went bad, Obi-wan went into hiding, everyone else died. Same with Rogue One. The death of Han in The Force Awakens was a bit of a shock - but was blunted by the fact that Han had taken on the role of kind father figure to Rey, and ever since Ben Kenobi got cut down we all know what happens to father figures in the Star Wars universe.
Truthfully? Star Wars has been on rails literally since Phantom Menace's credits rolled. We knew the outcomes. Things were safe.
Except for midichlorians. Remember them? They were the invisible.... germs... that were responsible for Force power. Lucas said that the Force was basically a magical cold, and some people had a lot of midichlorians (which you could theoretically test for, like trichinosis), and that's why the Force worked. No midichlorians, and you could never be a Jedi.
The fans hated that, too. They liked the idea that anyone could be a Jedi. They didn't like the idea that it was a genetic lottery that disproportionately rewarded specific people - hell, they got enough of that crap in high school.
And the interesting thing about fandom is that you can't really decide what elements of canon stick. You can say it happened, but fandom has its own consciousness and culture - and if an element is too alien, fandom will quietly reroute around the damage. As a creator you can keep pounding on that rogue element, trying to sell it to the fans - but if you do it too much, they'll walk away rather than swallow this stupid part of "canon."
Given time, your new addition to the canon will become a footnote. Things will return to the normal people come to expect.
And so midichlorians became an embarrassing backwater. They're not mentioned again in the new films, because everyone hated them. In fact, The Last Jedi specifically craps all over the idea of midichlorians - thematically, if not specifically - by Luke saying the Force belongs to everyone, not just Jedi, and by the way here's a random inspired kid who's using the Force. And Rey's a great Force user even though she's from nobody parents.
The Last Jedi is, in fact, in many ways a rebuttal to George Lucas's midichlorians.
Midichlorians didn't take.
And the fascinating question to me is whether this version of Luke takes. He's already not stuck in this Luke-loving household - oh, we absolutely believe in the events that happened in The Last Jedi, because Luke's final battle kicks ass, but secretly Gini and I have come to believe that Luke didn't really do nothing after the second Death Star went down. We've taken to covertly rewriting our personal Luke history to be more like the old Extended Universe, where Luke had a long and storied career of wandering around doing massively heroic things before settling down and fucking up his Jedi Academy. (Which does seem like something Luke would do.)
In other words, I wonder whether Rian Johnson's version of Luke of that one-hit wonder will actually take root in the fandom. It might. There's a lot of people who genuinely believe Luke was an idiot, and if so, you can keep that opinion to yourself because I don't share it.
But what I suspect might happen is that parts of fandom will quietly push back on this idea, so that it gets pushed back, the way that Jar-Jar's influence got trimmed back in Attack of the Clones and then to cameo in Revenge of the Sith. I suspect that even if Episode IX doesn't have some hint that Luke wasn't entirely a loser friendless cave-dweller for the majority of his career, some future Star Wars project will demonstrate a Luke at the height of his powers, doing something, anything, other than "saving Vader and then doofing away the rest of his life on insignificant things."
And it may be that forty years from now, there's a movie that explicitly pushes back on the idea of Luke's isolation in some way. Because there's a tradition that if you bring your heroes back they have to be broken - Han Solo died as a loser who frantically tried to replicate the waning thrills of his twenties (he wore the same jacket, and how sad is it when a seventy-year-old dude is dressing like the Star Wars equivalent of Hot Topic?), and Harry Potter turned out to have learned nothing from all his experiences in the stage play The Cursed Child.
I don't know whether this version of Luke will take in Star Wars fandom. I suspect it'll get kicked around a bit, massaged, Luke showing up in the cartoon shows as some sort of guest-star badass (and it's not like Mark Hamill doesn't do fantastic voiceovers). And I suspect if there's a Star Wars series where Rey shows up, her appearance will be in part a rebuttal to Luke's appearance here - because if you're a huge Rey fan, imagine that after Episode XI's credits roll she settles back in a Jakku-like world and sits around passively waiting for someone to get her. If you don't like that, well, that's how many of us feel about Luke.
But I do know that what we're seeing right now is part of the great Star Wars debate: which parts get to be widely accepted, and which don't? The beauty of Star Wars fandom is that Lucasfilm doesn't determine canon ultimately - that's dependent on the quality of the show and the fan reaction. (If it wasn't for the magnificence of Clone Wars, I suspect the prequels would be a null zone that people rarely referenced.)
Rian Johnson said who Luke was. But he doesn't get to decide that once and for all. He might get there, but ultimately?
It's the fans who get to decide if his take on Luke is what they think really happened. We all get to decide our own internal canon, the same way that many of us have shrugged off midichlorians.
Because you know what's important? Enjoying the movies in the way you want to. And if that involves quietly skipping past the prequels, or midichlorians, or Luke as Lou Bega, well, I'm behind anything that makes Star Wars more fun for you.
As a non-Star Wars side note, I'm using LJ for Star Wars-related blogging because, well, it has cut-tags and my blog at theferrett.com doesn't. I've stopped cross-posting here because a) my cross-poster broke, and b) I'd been planning to sunset LJ anyway because I fundamentally disagree with LJ's new owners. And right after that, when I planned to discuss that because some people had emailed me, I've had some serious psychological issues where my social anxiety and blogging have intersected and I've not said much. (I'm in therapy now; let's hope it helps.)
Anyway, the point is, I may make another Star Wars post here or two in the future, but if you want to see me, follow me at theferrett.com. I'll probably start blogging again at some point, albeit at a much slower rate. Thanks for reading me and such.